Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Another State Audubon Society Calls For Deer Hunting

Today, the New York Times highlights the call made by the New Jersey Audubon Society for more deer hunting to "prevent deforestation leading to the extinction...of birds." While I find their interest in birds decidedly specific (overly dense white-tailed (Odocoileus virginianus) populations, like overly dense human populations, harm entire ecosystems) they are taking a step in the right direction by following the lead of the Connecticut Audubon Society.

Two notes on the New York Times piece, though:
1) The NJ Audubon Society also advocates "costly fencing and deer relocation programs" to manage the size of the deer herd. Fencing, in particular, worries me, as it divides otherwise connected habitat as surely as does a road. A road might result in numerous road-kill deaths, but a fence is a solid genetic barrier, one which will have a corrosive effect over the years.

2) Nancy Bowman, director of the Mercer County Deer Coalition, a group which fights for deer protection, claims that "Killing the deer isn't the answer. In fact, when you kill deer, you simply increase their birth rates because they produce faster than you can kill them." The second statement is ignorant (or a knowing lie). Surely Ms. Bowman recognizes that, if you kill the majority of any population, they won't be able to reproduce at an accelerated rate. Though I'm by no means advocating such overkill, the 19th century slaughter of the American bison (Bison bison) population disproves Ms. Bowman’s argument.

That said, because most hunters want "trophy animals," they prefer to kill bucks. That is not sound management. Hunters should be given incentives to shoot only does without fawns. Doing so greatly reduces the population replacement rate, whereas shooting bucks does little to curtail birthrate. Sadly, shooting a doe remains taboo in some circles; it's seen as analogous to hitting a woman. Such attitudes regarding deer hunting are out-dated and ecologically, counter productive. Both hunters and preservationists need to be educated by conservationists.

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